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Real Estate Newsletter #12

April 3, 2006

In Costa Rica there is a certain absence of subtlety. It is, after all, in the Latin tropics, with its screaming vivid colors, its enormous foliage, its unreal weather conditions that are more performance art than simply rain and sunshine. There is so much drama to even the most common events of the day. I recall a simple tennis match, from years ago when I had a Country Inn. It illustrates what I love most about the unpredictability of this country.

THE MATCH

Tom sneered on to the tennis court at the Inn looking like a United States "Dream Team" basketball star during an Olympics’ match: just too self-confident, cocksure, arrogant. This was Pele awaiting a match against a small-town soccer team; it was Mohammad Ali in his prime ready to spar with the local tough, it was Jessie Owens wanting to race you to the corner store. He appeared inflated, with his $500 black graphite tennis racket in hand, wearing designer tennis shorts, air-pump foot gear, dazzling turquoise lycra sun cap, shiny new and matching sweatbands on his wrists and a perfect tan that set off his perfect teeth, which were lightly clenched, ready to eat alive any would-be opponent.

The weather was classic Escazu morning: dazzling sunshine, with only the hint of a cloud appearing way to the North; bright, blazing, brilliant light, with no shadows; a pregnant expectation of something about to happen, the air thick after last night's rainfall, full and waiting. And, because it was coffee-break time for the staff and gardeners, there was a strange absolute silence. It was a silence that was not so much an emptiness of anything, but rather a whispering presence; it was that silence of a theater stage with the curtains opened, just seconds before the beginning of the first act. And we all seemed to be waiting for something to happen.

"Hey, Harvey, got time to hit a few?" he said. All attention turned toward me. The gallery was waiting. I dodged. "Naw, thanks... I've got to get things ready for some guests," I said. Some of the staff nearby just smiled, being kind.

"Hey! Why don't you have Pedro play with that guy!" said Rafa, the head maintenance guy, gesturing with a toss of his head toward a dark huddled figure, crouched in a corner of the garden. Everyone grinned, snickering into their coffee cups.

Pedro was the gardener that everyone knew was there, but no one ever really noticed. He was a part of the environment. A rasta, with long, never-washed dreadlocks; he was always barefoot, probably didn't own a pair of shoes. That brilliant warm morning, Pedro was shirtless and wearing only a pair of shorts that seemed just about to disintegrate. Grimey, grubby, mucky- those were somehow the words that came into your mind when he slid by. Though he was all of that, he was also an excellent gardener. In tune with the plants, focused on their needs, he seldom communicated with people, though he was sometimes heard to be humming to a bush, or talking softly, cajoling a delicate, ailing plant into health. I liked Pedro, liked the quiet intense way that he went about his work. I resented what I thought was an insult to him by the other workers.

I had thought that Pedro hadn't heard the maintenance man’s comment. But he looked up from his crouching position, hands and feet covered in mud and ooze from the wet garden, and, glancing at me, just nodded. I wasn't sure I had seen it correctly. Then he half-smiled and nodded again.

Standing up, walking slowly from the gardens, barefoot onto the tennis court, he wiped mud from his hands onto the remnants of the shorts he was wearing. Facing Tom, Pedro looked over at me and nodded again. Somehow, I knew what he wanted. I walked over to the barbecue area and grabbed an old abandoned tennis racket that was high on the shelves there and threw it to him. He caught it, turned it over slowly in his hands, hit the old, sad strings once against his palm, and nodded again, approving.

Tom, facing him on the far court, said, "Shit, Harvey, you've got to be kidding with this guy." I grimaced a little and said, "Well, Tom, you know, there's just no one around right now to play. Hit him a ball. Who knows?" and, shrugging, I started to turn away, not wishing to confront the scene.

Tom stood there for a moment, feeling annoyed, a little offended that Pedro had been allowed on the same court at the same time as he. Then he said, "What the hell..." and smashed a ball towards Pedro.

The transformation was instant and stunning. Pedro's half-naked body suddenly became taut, disciplined, tuned. He drew his racket back on his forehand side, stepped into the ball and with absolutely flawless form, drove it back, hard, right at Tom's feet. He had hit that tennis ball with the grace and power of an NBA superstar soaring towards a hoop.

"What the fuhhhh! What was that!" bellowed Tom. No one said anything. It was a Greek play, just waiting to happen. "Nooooo. I didn't see that right!" he said, and then hit a second ball, this time towards Pedro's backhand. Again, Pedro's body turned effortlessly in response, and with a perfect, brilliant stroke, smashed the ball back to the identical spot, at Tom's feet. The workers almost spit out their coffee, stammered a "Jueyyyyy..," and put down their coffee cups. Two female guests from Northern California, hearing Tom's gasp after the first volley came smashing back at his feet, moved to the edge of the court and sat on a bench, observing, waiting. One of the maids put down her cleaning supplies basket and leaned against the macadamia tree and watched, not saying anything, yet somehow appearing happy that what was happening was, indeed, happening.

Pedro gestured towards Tom with open hands, as if to say, "Do you want to play, or what...?"

They played two sets. Pedro won both, 6-0, 6-0. It was beautiful tennis, on Pedro's part. As good or better than any I had ever seen. And when it was over, Pedro just threw the racket back to me, said "Thank you," in English, to Tom, and shook his hand, then went back to his corner of the garden, barefoot still, and continued to work, humming a tune to a hibiscus.

It turned out that Pedro had started as a ballboy when he was eight years old, at the Costa Rica Country Club, had played tennis every day there as young man, was the star of the national junior's tennis team, and then was discovered smoking dope and was removed from the team and fired from the Country Club. Before that day at the Inn, he hadn't played tennis for years, and no one there at the Inn had known anything about him, or his history.

Yet viewing him around the gardens from that day onward, everything about him seemed as clear and crisp as a morning after heavy rain. It was as though all of Pedro's windows had been thrown open, allowing everything to air out.


(Newsletter #11) . “So, what ever did happen to Mauricio?”

Mauricio was in a coma for three days. When he woke, he asked how he got there, at the hospital. He was told that someone carried him there. He then asked, “But why would someone do that?” No one knew how to answer that question.

Harvey


Muy Tico
Papermania
Costa Rica Bureaucracy, Part 2.

Bureaucracy exists, to a certain degree, everywhere, but here in Costa Rica it’s principle symptom is “papermania.”

“Papermania” is the love and obsessive accumulation of completely useless and worthless pieces of paper. And here there are few limits to this obsession.

Every government-related activity or function, including the phone company, electric and water companies, as well as the one and only insurance company…all of which here are government related institutions… require that you provide more documents than are humanly possible, including my very, very favorite, lawyer certifications of papers that exist already on the National Registry's database.

Following are a few tips to help you maintain some sanity and to waste as little time as possible, given this national obsession for papermania:

1. Always, before you go, call the institution and ask for the entire list of requirements and documentation.

2. Call a second time and request this list again. If these two lists of requirements and documentation given to you by the two different people who happened to answer the phone, at the same institution, are approximately the same, then proceed to assemble these documents, etc. If they are not the same, then call a third time and go with those items that come up most frequently.

2. Always bring along extra copies of your passport, drivers license and any other important ID documents. Even if they didn't ask for them, bring them along.

3. Make extra copies of every single document that they ask for. This is better than being turned away after waiting in long lines for an intolerable period of time. (See newsletter #10).

4. Somehow, do not get upset when they ask you for something that sounds, and is in fact, absurd. Getting mad will not solve the problem and will only harden the resolve of the government worker to do nothing to help. Remember that it is only a game.

5. Make sure all the necessary documents have all the necessary stamps. These are little postage stamp-like things that make documents look official, and have little to do with anything, other than requiring you to go somewhere else and buying them. If you do not have these, then you will need to go to another part of town, through impossible traffic, to get them. (Logic states that they should sell the stamps in the same place, but then it would not be fun for the bureaucrat.)

6. This is the most important point of all: Papermania can also work on your behalf; so when you get a traffic ticket, consider doing what most Costa Ricans do: FORGET IT. Most of the pieces of paper flowing through the government are ignored, lost, drowned in a sea of other paperwork, and perhaps as much as 90% of all traffic tickets, never do get processed.

Strange, isn’t it, that for a country that is more environmentally conscious than most, Costa Ricans somehow enjoy wasting thousands of trees in paper form, that will just be stacked and stored and never seen by another human being. Not ever.

Ah, well. It does provide employment.

Jack


NEW LISTINGS

16-Acre View Property
Dominical
So. Pacific

Located within 5 minutes to a beautiful, pristine beach, this is one of only 20 extraordinary properties in a development of 116 acres.

Enormous ocean view building site already installed. Great access roads. Ideally suited for two homes.

Here, each owner owns part of a 116-acre reserve that borders an 815 acre reserve, established to maintain and protect all of the flora and fauna that live there. Designed to ensure absolute privacy, within this private preserve are waterfalls, magnificent primary jungle, toucans, monkeys, sloths, many species of parrots, and many more species… Building restrictions allow for only two homes per parcel, eliminating long-term density issues. There is an electronic entrance gate at the bottom of the community to insure safety and privacy to the lot owners.

This 16-acre property includes one enormous, precut building site with stunning ocean and mountain views, both to the north up the coast to Manuel Antonio and west directly to the Pacific Ocean. This is a very rare property, for a very rare private estate. And ready for you, at:

$500,000

Dominical Costa Rica Real Estate


595 Acres of Development Land
With Ocean Frontage
Dominical
So. Pacific

This magnificent property consists of 595 acres, with one kilometer of oceanfront, more than enough flat land for building a golf course, and beautiful rolling hills, with stunning ocean views. Additionally, there is an airstrip that is long enough to land small jets.

Located just 4 miles south of Dominical, in the highly desirable South Pacific zone. If one were to develop a golf course on this property, it would be the only golf course in the entire South Pacific zone of Costa Rica, as nowhere else in this vast area is there sufficient flat land that is not national park or preserve.

The price is $6.5 million, which is less than one-third of the price being asked for similar ocean view/ocean frontage parcels. Importantly, the seller is offering to finance, at: $2.0 million down payment with 10% interest for the first year and then is requesting balloon payments only for the second, third, and fourth years. Potential profits are mind-boggling and run into hundreds of millions of dollars, depending only on added improvements.

This motivated seller is even offering to take this property off of the market, after a down payment/deposit of $250,000, which would be fully refundable for a period of 60 days!

Again. $6.5 Million. 595 acres with a kilometer of ocean frontage. Yeow

Dominical Real Estate Costa Rica


View Home
Escazu Foothills
Central Valley

This very nicely done new home is 3000 sq ft, with 5000 sq feet of land. Three bedrooms. Three baths. Dining room, open kitchen, entertainment room, much more. The views are inspirational and this is in an up and coming section of Escazu that is rapidly appreciating in value.

The photos say it all.

Very, very underpriced at $325,000. (and won’t last long…)

Escazu Costa Rica Real Estate


50 Acres of Undeveloped Rainforest
Ocean views and Valley Views
(near Villa Caletas) Jaco Beach
Central Pacific

Magnificent property with no building restrictions and with exceptional views of the marina bay at Los Suenos resort, as well as great valley views. Perfect for subdividing and resales.

Many great building sites. Ocean view section on the west ride could be widened to provide a sensational building site. Other lots could be created on the west slope, also with great valley views.

With the construction of an inexpensive road from the east side of this property lots could be created and sold to pay for the construction of an estate, with ocean views. Costs for such a road are estimated at just over $10k.

Fruit trees on some of the slopes. Natural spring right on the property. Approximately 200 meters of frontage road, right on the Costanera highway.

With a little work and the creation of an internal access road, this is a dream property for someone who wants to do a small subdivision and sell off lots to pay for construction of that dream home.

Best of all, this was just reduced from $250,000 to:

$175,000 for 50 acres with ocean views, priced now to sell immediately!

Jaco Beach Real Estate Costa Rica


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